The Week in Tech: A new Mars rover, Facebook’s fine and more

Hello and welcome to the Week in Tech, your weekly roundup of some of the top technology news stories from across the globe.

This week, we bring the latest on the Cambridge Analytica and Facebook scandal, a multi-million contract setting course for Mars and more.

Moneybox takes total to £21.3m

FinTech firm Moneybox closed a £14m Series B led by Eight Road Ventures, with support from Oxford Capital Partners and Samos Investments.

The small-investment app was launched in August 2015 by entrepreneurs Charlie Mortimer and Ben Stanway. 

This latest round brings the company’s total raise to £21.3m. The cash will be used to expand the team, build new products and create content.

The app relates investing to saving your spare change, letting users get started with as little as £1. According to the firm, the average Moneybox customer invests £20 a week through a combination of round ups, weekly deposits, payday boosts and one-offs.

The firm claims to have helped 100,000 people start their investing journey.

Food sharing made easy

OLIO, an app which lets people share their leftover food with neighbours, also closed a funding round this week as part of its journey to reduce the vast amount of produce we throw away.

The company, which was founded by Stanford Business School graduates Tessa Clarke and Saasha Celestial-One, raised $6m in a Series A round led by Octopus Ventures.

Users can snap and share a picture of the leftover food they want to donate and other users can request whatever takes their fancy. Pickup is then arranged via in-app messaging.  

OLIO claims its community has shared over 600,000 portions of food in just over two years using the app, as part of its mission to tackle food waste, starting with small businesses and households.

Now, this latest cash injection will be used to double the size of the team – with a particular focus on product.

It will also be used to expand their “Food Waste Heroes Programme”, where volunteers collect any unsold or uneaten food from local businesses such as a bakery, supermarket, deli, event or work canteens, that are left at the end of the day, and re-distribute it to the local community.

The programme currently has 1,500 volunteers supporting approximately 200 locations including Pret a Manger, Planet Organic, Sainsburys and Morrisons.

A UKTN Exclusive

UKTN exclusively announced that money-management app Emma raised a £420,000 Seed. Pegged as ‘the banking app for millennials’, it helps users to avoid overdrafts, find and cancel subscriptions, track debt and save money.

Transferwise’s early investor Kima Ventures led the investment alongside Aglae Ventures, which is part of the Group Arnault. The remainder came from Angel investors and family.  

The London-based company was founded by Edoardo Moreni and Antonio Marino. Moreni commented: “We believe they deserve a financial advocate with the goal of driving them through the difficult financial challenges that life presents. This round is the first step to fully achieve our mission.”

The money will be used to further develop the product and expand Emma’s London team.

Other investments:

Facebook fined over data scandal

Also this week, Facebook was handed a £500,000 fine over its involvement in the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

This is the maximum amount that can be given as a fine, but to put this into context, the tech giant made £500,000 in revenue every five and a half minutes during the first quarter of this year.

The fine was given on the grounds of two breaches of the Data Protection Act.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) issued the fine, and said Facebook failed to protect its users’ information and was not transparent about how the data was harvested by third parties.

Information commissioner Elizabeth Denham said: “Fines and prosecutions punish the bad actors, but my real goal is to effect change and restore trust and confidence in our democratic system.”

UK ranked top for VC funding in Europe

A report published this week spelt good news for UK VC funding.

The KMPG Enterprise report, which analysed funding trends across the globe, found that during the second quarter of 2018, VC investment in the UK grew stronger, following a ‘dip in investment’ in the first quarter of this year.

According to the findings,  an impressive 244 deals across businesses in all sectors – not just tech – took place in the UK, leading to £1.55bn of venture capital investment flowing through the country. UKTN’s own investment tracker reveals that £1.54bn has already been invested in UK tech companies so far this year.

These numbers place the UK ahead of other European countries in terms of VC funding. This shows a stable, continuing trend since research released by London & Partners revealed the UK had received more funding than any other European tech hub in the two years since the Brexit vote.

Other findings from the report follow previous trends: London received the highest percentage of funding than any other UK region and AI was the most sought-after industry for investors. 

Read more about the report on the UKTN website.

Contract for Mars rover

Our understanding of the Red Planet could soon reach new levels, if plans to send a rover to retrieve samples from the surface of Mars run smoothly.

This week, British astronaut Tim Peake and Sam Gyimah, the Minister for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation announced a partnership between aerospace company Airbus and the European Space Agency. The contract was worth £3.9m, and UK engineers will work on the concept in Airbus’s base in Stevenage, just North of London.

The concept vehicle needs to be capable of retrieving Martian samples. It will work like this: first, the (already finalised) 2020 Mars rover will drill for and scoop up soil samples, transfer them in small containers, and place them at pick-up points.

Then, six years later if all goes to plan, the 130kg fetch rover will land on Mars along with an ascent vehicle. The rover will pick up the deposited canisters and bring them back to the ascent vehicle, which will then leave mars and return to Earth with the soil samples.

Jeremy Wright is appointed as Digital Secretary

The Conservative party cabinet was switched up this week. Notably, Jeremy Wright has been named as the new Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

The MP for Kenilworth and Southam came under fire as it was realised that he isn’t an active Twitter user, and an account linked to him hasn’t tweeted since 2015.

UKTN asked experts in the tech scene for their comments on the new appointment.

Georgina O’Toole, chief analyst at UK-based TechMarketView, said his lack of social media presence was not surprising considering his previous role as Attorney General.

“Wright has shown limited interest in digital; however, it’s worth highlighting that he has been close to the Crown Prosecution Services’ digital plans and its contract disaggregation agenda,” she said.

Ethar Alali, the CEO of Axelisys and a signatory to TechForUK, feels his lack of tweeting signals potential danger: “What concerns me about Matt Hancock’s departure is that even the government understood he was closer to technology than any of the other members of the front-bench. This is in stark contrast to Jeremy Wright, who appears not only to have zero tech skill, but also no interest in it. Having not, at this moment, tweeted anything since April 2015,” he said.

Julian David, techUK‘s CEO, and Gerard Grech, CEO of government funded Tech Nation, were optimistic. David said: “As we navigate our exit from the European Union and build a Global Britain, it will be crucial to have a voice at the centre of Government that understands the role the tech sector has to play, not just in creating a prosperous economy, but in finding solutions to society’s most pressing challenges.”

Grech concluded: “This success has been built over years and it is vital that we keep up the momentum as we push for global leadership in this area. We look forward to working closely with Jeremy Wright to carry on the important work of building digital skills, supporting ambitious tech entrepreneurs and promoting our successful tech sector at home and abroad.”

Other news appointments include previous Culture Secretary Matt Hancock as the new Health Secretary and Jeremy Hunt as the new Foreign Secretary (following Boris Johnson’s resignation).

That’s all for today…See you next Friday!